You know, I have only ever visited one live movie set while work was going on, and it makes a huge difference in visualizing what my film people are talking about when I’m doing quote work with them. I can only assume this holds true for journalists without development experience when interviewing computer people.

I think, though, there’s more to be learned regarding what goes on in shooting. I need to arrange for more time on set. For that matter, I need to arrange for fly-on-the-wall time in a dev group working on stuff substantially different than the sorts of projects I’ve burned the midnight candle over. Hm.

The Seated Battle

Personae dramatis

BOB, a meathead sports announcer out of central casting

GOLDIE, a person of ethnicity with a background in sports bookmaking

Setting: The television coverage of a second-rank mid-size purse wrestling match, with a title at stake, sometime in the nineteen-seventies.

BOB: Goldie, who’s your pick here tonite at the big Veep Smackdown? We’ve seen that “Big Dick” can wield some pretty menacing vocabulary over the past four years. But he’s thought to have developed a short fuse – and don’t forget that ticker!

GOLDIE: Well, Bob, I heard that the Dick line of thought has been, “If I’m sitting, I might look less frightening and more grandfatherly.”

BOB: “Big Dick”’s challenger, “The Kid,” is a huge favorite with the ladies!

And before he stepped in to the ring, he had an unbroken string of victories

against some real heavyweights!

(Shuffles papers, taps pen)

Goldie, you’re the man we turn to here on Political Wrestling when it comes to matters of the book. You can let us in, buddy – what are the oddsmakers saying in Vegas?

GOLDIE: Well, Bob, the conventional wisdom says that Edwards should just keep trying to scare Cheney. We’re all hoping to hear him be, like, “Well, my esteemed opponent has many years of serv–*BOO!!!*”

BOB (starts, nearly falls out of chair): OHMigod.

(Grasps chest) Oh, I see, the Angina Gambit!

GOLDIE (Rolls eyes, looks skeptical): Yeah.

BOB: What can you tell us about “Big Dick”’s weigh-in stats, Goldie? Did you get a chance to take a look in the locker room and eyeball the guy in his towel?

GOLDIE: He should lay off the fried foods.

BOB: Better him than me!

(Both sportscasters share a manly chuckle)

GOLDIE (clearly directed at BOB): *BOO!*

BOB: AUUGH! Will you stop it! What, are you trying to kill me?

(Grasps GOLDIE by the collar, hisses sotto voce): Lissen, ya yutz, if you do me in, you can’t collect, see?

BOB (using normal, hearty voice): Was he looking fit and ready for battle, or peak-ed and doughy? Was he smoking fat cigars?

(“Big Dick” steps into the ring, unexpectedly)

GOLDIE: He’s clutching his chest, Bob!

BOB (Standing up, chair clatters off camera): Oh my god!

GOLDIE: He was banging cocktail waitresses two at a time! Look at the size of that man! And Edwards comes out wearing only a towel and a smile!

BOB: What’s his wind like, these days? Can he go the distance? Edwards is looking pretty polished there, Goldie. He defintely has his moves down! LOOK AT THAT SMILE!!!

GOLDIE: He’s smiling like a man possessed!

GOLDIE: There are definitely Two Americas in this room tonight, Bob.

BOB: “Big Dick” doesn’t seem very impressed, Goldie. He seems sort of… snarly. Still, he’s taking his time. OH! Edwards has “Big Dick” in in a Halliburton lock! Look at those bulging subpoenas! Oh, what a move!

GOLDIE: Oh, who wouldn’t want some Johnnie Walker Black faced with paperwork like that!

BOB: OH! Big Dick used the National Security Reversal – And he’s got his hands firmly locked over Edward’s most formidable weapon, his gleaming teeth!

The part of BOB was played by Mike Whybark. The part of GOLDIE was played (unwittingly, to an extent) by Ken Goldstein.

Notes: Davey Oil

Davey Oil is a fixture of the current Seattle cartooning and comics scene. Within that community he is renowned for his verbal ability, and his quick tongue always makes for an interesting interview experience. I have an extant talk with him in the can but not placed, alas, in which at one point he said something and immediately clapped both hands over his mouth, wide eyed. He is amusing and erudite.

He is also the guiding spirit behind the multimedia comics/animation slide shows known as Slide Rule, which the majority of people I talk to about these things cite as a highlight of the current goings on in Seattle alternative cartooning. Oil contributes drawings to these events that are based upon his dreams. Nearly wordless, and often stately in pace, watching them is nearly the inverse of engaging in conversation with him in his rapid flow of thoughts and intensity.

I spoke with Davey on February 17, 2004, in preparation for an article to appear in The Stranger.

Davey Oil

Tell me about upcoming Slide Rule events.

DO: On February 28, we are going to be part of an art opening/multimedia event called Rabbits and Robots. It’s going to be at Secluded Alley Works. I’m not exactly sure what time we’re performing at… Painter and Illustrator Kristine Evans also known as Konoko has put together this rather large group show at Secluded Alley Works. I think she’s focusing on Rabbits and Robots because there are certain themes of cuteness and technology culture that intersect.

Our performance is gonna be pretty short in that we’re going to be squeezed in between some deejays and some live rock music, it looks like.

It’s going to be all-new material. It’s looking like at this point it’s going to be myself and Tyler Gillies, my collaborator, and Stefan Gruber.

On March 22, at the Deep Down Lounge, which is in Temple Billiards in Pioneer Square, we’re performing at Fourth City’s weekly Monday night event. These people put together the laptop battles and all that. On Mondays they’ve been putting together deejay nights and music nights, experimental music and sometimes like noise rock bands. And once again through Kristine, we’ll be presenting a Slide Rule.

That one’s gonna be pretty close to a full-size slide rue, but it’s gonna be cool because it’s not gonna be in a sit-down venue. So I’m not really sure how it’s gonna go, but it’s probably gonna be mostly all-new work. We were performing a lot at the end of last year, the beginning of this year, so, January and February have been about getting people back to their drawing boards.

David Lasky mentioned a new Moxie to me when we spoke earlier. Will we see that in future Slide Rules?

DO: Yeah, definitely. It’s too early to announce the date but we’re going to be doing a Moxie II benefit Slide Rule performance. Most of the issue will be turned into slide shows.

Any further plans to take Slide Rule on the Road?

DO: Yeah, we’re going to be performing at the Olympia Comics Convention. I think it’s in May.

Any thoughts of taking the show to Portland?

DO: Um, more so now that we have a great connection down there with Alyssa and Elijah moving down there. We just now started talking to some people who look like they might be interested in booking us down there.

Compare the Seattle cartooning and comics scene to a year ago.

DO: It’s lacking. We could use a lot more connections between people. We need more events, I think. Self-publishing and events seem to be slowing down around here, or maybe people aren’t bringing their zines and mini-comics to places where I see them. Even the most active, self-motivated cartoonists don’t seem to be making all that many zines right now. Although I think that it might be just as simple as people are – maybe they’re not spending as much time out or making as many connections because they are working more, really hard on long material. That’s what I feel is happening with me and the Slide Rule people.

Is that interest a reflection in the publishing press given to growth in the sales of long-format material such as graphic novels?

DO: That’s not what I’ve heard people say. My feeling is just that I feel like people are starting to hold themselves to higher standards, so self-publishing maybe slows down when they are trying to be cleaner and not just a zine they’ve thrown together at the bar…

I’m kinda talking outta my ass right now. Let me think about this for a second.

No, I don’t think that the reason is because of the attention that large book publishers have been paying to comics, because I don’t think that attention has really been felt by most cartoonists that I hang out with.

What’s the most exciting development here over last year?

DO: You know what I think has been really exciting? The readings that have been going on at Confounded Books. I don’t know if they’ve been more frequent recently of if I’ve just noticed them more recently now that they’ve moved down the street from where I live. I feel like their readings – Confounded involves cartoonists with barely a mention of the fact that we’re working in a different literary form than text writers…

Do you see a commonality between the touring literary circus stuff at Confounded and Slide Rule?

DO: Probably. I didn’t see many of those people. . . Let’s see. There’s been a cartoonist on each of the ones that they’ve done. I don’t see those people trying to perform – trying to create the kind of performance experience that we’re creating. I see those people maybe more using the slide show as assistance to the description of what they do. Where we’re using the slide show to make what we do.

Notes: Dirk Deppey

Dirk Deppey is the newly-appointed editor of The Comics Journal at Fantagraphics. Over the past year and change, prior to his appointment, he worked in Fantagraphics’ catalog department and launched and edited what quickly became the most-read comics-oriented web site (in my opinion, that is – I never saw the traffic logs), ¡Journalista!, on hiatus while Deppey settles in at the CJ.

¡Journalista! provided a daily roundup of comics news links from around the web, and the maniacal amount of work that Deppey put into the site was plainly apparent. It was the most comprehensive daily link-roundup site I’ve ever seen on any topic.

I spoke with Dirk on February 17, 2004, in preparation for an article to appear in The Stranger.

Dirk Deppey

Tell me about the Seattle comics community compared to Portland.

DD: There actually seems to be a livelier comics scene in Portland than there does here. The old Fantagraphics scene from the late eighties to mid-nineteen-nineties seems to have largely drifted away. I mean a lot of the people who were in have either moved elsewhere or um just generally dropped out altogether. I know that Rick Altergott and Ariel Bordeaux are in Rhode Island now. . .

Roberta Gregory and Donna Barr have both moved out of town – they are still in the state but they’re out of town. Jesus. I’m drawing a blank.

Relative to the national activity you’ve observed as you gathered links for Journalista, is Seattle doing well or poorly?

DD: I’d say it compares fairly weakly. We have a couple of small-press to the point of self-publishing publishers here aside from Fantagraphics. There’s MU Press, and I think that is probably the second largest; and then there’s a couple of others, whose names escape me. But they amount to – I guess the closest point of comparison would be when Gary and Kim were just starting out with Fanatgraphics, in the late seventies.

Take for example Portland. Portland’s got, for example, both Top Shelf and Dark Horse. It’s also got a self-publishing scene aside from that. It also seems to have a fair amount of alternative and editorial newspaper cartoonists there as well.

The Seattle scene. The only really active cartoonists of the new generation that I can think of offhand are Dave Lasky and Jennifer Daydreamer. I’m sure there are others. I was gonna say Elijah Brubaker but I just got an email from him inviting me to his farewell party – he’s moving to Portland.

I was speaking to Craig Thompson earlier today and he said that Portland’s lower cost of living makes it an easier place to live for artists.

DD: Yes. I’m coming to this from the perspective of someone who moved up here three years ago from Phoenix, Arizona. And uh, I was just astonished at the real estate prices up here.

Notes: Eric Reynolds

Eric Reynolds is Fantagraphics’ PR guy. He also has editorial duties, and is an accomplished cartoonist and illustrator in his own right. He once wrote a comics news column for The Stranger with, um, Stranger founder James Sturm? Unfortunately, the columns appear to predate the online archive.

I spoke with Eric on February 17, 2004, in preparation for an article to appear in The Stranger.

Eric Reynolds

Last time I interviewed you for publication, we discussed the Fantagraphics financial crisis. Can you give us an update?

ER: Fantagraphics’ financial health, I’m happy to report, is getting better and better every day.

We’re out of the immediate crisis zone. Publishing is always a struggling sort of enterprise, but it really has been getting a little bit better every month since late last year. And now as we get closer and closer to some big books for the spring, like the first Peanuts volume, there’s the light at the end of the tunnel right in front of our faces.

Personally speaking, my own frame of mind is infinitely better than it was at this same time last year.

You are going to APE (the Alternative Press Expo) soon, right?

ER: Myself and Greg [inaudible] and Gary Groth are all going. Charles Burns is the sort-of star guest of the whole show, so he’s sort of our number one person that will be there. He’s got signing events the whole weekend and he’s got a big spotlight panel. Dan Clowes is coming on Saturday and he’s always our biggest draw no matter where we go. If he’s there you know he draws a crowd everywhere he goes.

So those are the big two. We’ve got Sophie – Sophie Crumb, she’s going to be there. I’m sure there will be a lot of people eager to see her.

Who are your top selling local artists these days?

ER: The Frank Book [by Jim Woodring] did really great. Our big books of 2003 were Palomar, The Frank Book, Quimby the Mouse, and and what was the other one. . . Well, there was the Bill Ward book, but really I’d probably single out Quimby, The Frank Book, and Palomar.

How did Krigstein [a coffee-table size biography and survey of the influential EC cartoonist Bernie Krigstein] do?

ER: Krigstein was actually late ’02. Krigstein did OK, not great. Palomar is still on it’s curve, so it’s kind of hard to tell where that one’s gonna fall when it’s done. And it’s a forty-dollar hardcover so it didn’t do gangbusters right out of the gate.

Are you going to be pushing it for reviews?

ER: It was such an expensive book that I sent out fewer copies than I normally do and I tended to send them to more national media.

The Frank Book did really phenomenally well, it sold out. We’re going to have to go back to press on it. We should have more copies, I think, in March sometime. So that was really cool, as far as the local angle goes. It was really important to me to see that book do right, you know because I just think so much of Jim. It was really rewarding to see that book get well reviewed and then subsequently sell out pretty quickly.

Aside from that – what’s big and new? We have this new romance comic collection that’s doing fairly well. I don’t know if it’s getting a lot of Valentine’s day driven sales or what, but the initial sales were amazingly strong for a bunch of nineteen fifties comics that nobody remembers.

How important to FG is local alt-comics scene?

ER: I don’t think it’s not important. But I don’t necessarily go out of my way to look for Northwest cartoonists per se. We just kinda look for good work in general. I don’t personally care whether a person’s from Seattle or Timbuktu. I know just from experience having Jim Woodring and Peter Bagge in your back yard – and Roberta Gregory – makes you feel really good and cool and special and it’s something. . . I personally enjoy having them in the same city as me but from a business point of view I’m not really sure it’s all that necessary.

I don’t think Fantagraphics’ reputation per se is contingent on its’ sort of Northwest connection, like it was ten years ago when the media was making it out to be that way.

Compare and contrast Seattle’s comics scene to Portland’s.

I think they are pretty similar really. I couldn’t really think of any marked divergences. I don’t know. I’m not sure how to answer that.

I mean they both have pretty healthy scenes and always have; Portland maybe has been a little bit smaller but, you know, so what. For whatever reason, the Northwest has always been a remarkably fertile area for not just comics but really all the arts.

Notes: Brad Beshaw

Brad Beshaw is the owner of Confounded Books, currently Seattle’s best alternative print media outlet. Beshaw moved here from New Mexico several years ago, and although his drawings have rarely seen wide distribution in Seattle, is a talented cartoonist. He wrote the long-running column Hollywood Deathwatch for Tablet Newspaper.

I spoke with Brad on February 17, 2004, in preparation for an article to appear in the Stranger.

Brad Beshaw, Confounded Books

What’s the most interesting development in the local cartooning scene over the last year?

BB: There’s a bunch of ’em. I mean there’s – it’s not over the last year, but over the last several. . . David Lasky’s comics-as-fine art group (Fine Comics) has gone through a lot of changes and recruited more and more people and they’re definitely a force. I mean, they’re everywhere. I’d need to include of course Davey Oil and the Slide Rule folks as well. The Slide Rule is definitely something interesting too that’s relatively recent.

. . .

The idea of bringing comics to a live performance medium is pretty interesting.

You hosted some of the Slide Rule events at the store. What other live events have you hosted at Confounded?

BB: There was Fly, who came here with the Killer Banshee Studio. Killer Banshees adapted her comic to computer manipulations – they didn’t actually move but they manipulated them via computer while she read. They projected them while she read. Her book is called Peops.

Perpetual Motion Roadshow is the mastermind of Jim Monroe, he’s a novelist from Canada who used to be the editor of AdBusters magazine. He has a website called, and through that he sets up groups of three readers – sometimes poets, sometimes novelists, sometimes cartoonists – and sends them off across the country.

There’s a west and an east coast leg; right now they are doing west; then they’ll be doing east.

The Bookmobile. Half of them are from Canada, and half are from – I can’t remember where. New York or was it Baltimore? I had it in my head that they were somewhere not quite New York but close [Buffalo?].

That’s an interesting group. They take submissions throughout the year and then tour with their favorites. Locals can also add stuff; our local cartoonists and zinesters added stuff. A couple of them were even called back to add stuff nationally.

Is Seattle taking part in something that’s reflected nationally, this performance/alternative press thing?

BB: Absolutely. I’d been talking about setting up some sort of national circuit for years and years, getting addresses of shops and so forth. Of course, they start up and go out of business quickly – See Hear in New York just closed, and they were one of the venerable stores. . .

We had talked about setting up some sort of a circuit and I had discussed it with my friend Juliet Torres who works at Last Gasp and publishes a series of minicomics that pairs comics artists with slam poets together. Dave Lasky’s done those, Ivan Brunetti’s done those – and we were talking about it and he turns around and does it, which is great. So he added us to the west coast list right away.

How interrelated are the Seattle and Portland cartooning and comics communities?

BB: Just in terms of output – Craig Thompson lives there and he’s pretty well known nationally; he’s gotten really big since the release of Blankets. Our big one right now – obviously Pete Bagge lives here, he doesn’t publish as much as he used to, but Dave Lasky’s gotten really large as of late; and then people like Jason Lutes are from here, and then around them are a group of lesser known zinesters or minicomic artists who kind of pop up and put out a lot of stuff or fade away. Like, Jennifer Daydreamer gets picked up by a major independent company like Top Shelf, and she’s doing really really well. She’s poised to become really big as well.

Both scenes are very – we get a lot of people from Portland down here. I would say they’re both twins in that we’re both big advocates of zines and small press. I remember years ago when I first moved here I pitched the idea of kind of doing a zine/comic crossover thing at the Hugo House for ZAPP, and a lot of the people who we asked about it were like, ‘why?’ you know, as if it weren’t just a natural connection.

But that connection’s very strong both in Portland and Seattle.

Notes: David Lasky

David Lasky is a Seattle-based cartoonist who co-produces the occasional comic book Urban Hipster for Alternative Comics. He also produces smaller work which is widely admired, both for its quiet and polished quality and for its ambition. He’s a sort of social nexus of Seattle cartooning, widely liked and deeply knowledgeable. His good will and helpfulness are boundless. Among other things, he conceived and executed the legendary minicomic adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulyssess, the striking Carter Family Comics (with co-author Frank Young) in Kramer’s Ergot 4, and more.

I spoke with David on Feb 17, 2004, in preparation for an article to appear in the Stranger.

David Lasky

Just about a year ago, I interviewed you and Greg Stump about Urban Hipster, and we talked about the Seattle comics scene. What’s changed since a year ago?

DL: What usually changes in the scene is the economics of Seattle. Cartoonists originally were drawn here because of – besides Fantagraphics being here – it was just a really affordable place to live, years and years ago. It was a livable city, that was how it was marketed to the world. And now it’s kind of expensive to live here and there’s no jobs. I think people are tending to leave, which is too bad.

Has the migration accelerated since a year ago?

DL: Um, I think the Seattle winter has accelerated things but also the fact there are so few jobs out there makes it hard for artists.

Specific individuals in mind or more generally?

DL: I think people – just in the last couple months – have been announcing that they’re leaving. Elijah Brubaker is leaving for Portland. Other arts-community type people have been making noises about wanting to leave.

Who? Can you give me names or cite specific individuals?

DL: No, not offhand. Just ‘cause they haven’t actually announced it – but they’re talking about looking for jobs in other cities, basically. I guess Elijah’s the only cartoonist I can think of who is actually leaving town. But in a small community that’s someone we’re losing and nobody’s – the kids aren’t flocking to Seattle right now.

How many people are in that community?

DL: My circle of friends is about ten people and then the larger comics community, I don’t know, could be a hundred people or more depending on how you want to define the comics community. There’s mainstream people and publishers and journalists…

What publishers are there, besides Fantagraphics, in the greater northwest?

DL: Down in Portland there’s Dylan Williams – Portland is where all the publishers are. Dark Horse, Top Shelf, and Dylan Williams’ company that’s made Orchids. Sparkplug. Sparkplug comic books. He’s doing – uh, publishing – Jason Shiga and Jeff Levine and a lot of the really interesting experimental cartoonists who the major alternative labels kind of overlook.

In Seattle, aside from Fantagraphics, uh… I can’t think of anyone right now who’s publishing.

Davey Oil and Slide Rule has been a really exciting thing for me that’s happening in our scene.

Tell me why Slide Rule is exciting for you.

DL: Because he’s taking young and experimental cartoonists who most people who shop for comics don’t really look at – he’s taking them to Seattle’s arts and clubs communities and showing comics live with music and animation. . . He’s thinking outside the box with people who wouldn’t normally see it.

[David also told me that a new Moxie is to be scripted by Mark Campos. Moxie is the Fine Comics collective’s comics anthology.]

What can you tell me about the Fine Comics website? Is it up yet?

DL: Dalton Webb is the administrator and the designer. He just got a homepage set up but it doesn’t link to anything. But we do hope to put some content on it soon. I’ll email you his contact info and show you what we’ve got so far.

Notes: Craig Thompson

In preparation for my late February Stranger story on the Seattle comics community, i spoke to a number of observers and participants; I’m running my notes and transcriptions here for a few days. This entry features what I wrote down from my conversation with Portland’s Craig Thompson.

Craig Thompson

What can you tell me about the Seattle comics scene and how it’s changed and evolved? What kind of an influence has it been on you?

CT: I keep in touch with Jennifer Daydreamer. And uh, that’s about the only person I’m keeping in touch with lately. But the Seattle scene is one of my main reasons for moving to the Northwest; it’s sort of accidental that I ended up in Portland instead. At that time the scene was – it was Tom Hart, Ed Brubaker, Megan Kelso, Jennifer Daydreamer – all those folks are still friends of mine; it just happens that a lot of them have left Seattle.

Just yesterday, I randomly ran into Joe [Sacco] and at the other end of the spectrum, Greg Rucha. I think he writes Batman or something – he’s a big part of the mainstream world. It’s funny how we just all randomly ran into each other.

My last real job and probably the best day job I ever had was working as a graphic designer at Dark Horse. Dark Horse is a great opportunity.

In the creative department where I was at there was fifty people or so. And most of them had their own thing that they were doing too.

Is Portland a cheaper place to live than Seattle?

CT: That’s why it’s a great environment for artists.

Does Portland have a tight-knit comics community?

CT: I’d like to say ‘yeah,’ but probably ‘no.’ It’s a pretty broken-up scene. But there are smaller scenes, like the mini-comics kids and stuff that are a lot more tight-knit. Maybe it’s ’cause those other guys – like myself – I wouldn’t say burned out, but we work so much during the day that our social life isn’t. . . But I always meet comic kids who have like, jam sessions and stuff like that. Not just kids, but people more from the self-published world.

But I do hang out with other cartoonists. You know, we meet up, we have that connection.

Here in Seattle, there’s a comics-related multimedia performance thing called Slide Rule, where local creators read or perform their works as slide shows in front of a live audience. Do you have anything like that in Portland?

CT: There is actually. Nocturnal, this gallery in town, does regular animation-slash-slideshows. It definitely is a combination. Some stuff will be fully animated, some stuff will be kinda half-ass animation, where it’s like slowly morphing images. And then there’s full-on slideshow accompanied by live music. That’s Nocturnal. I can’t think of the name of the shows.

I did a little digging afterwards, and the Nocturnal shows are organized by Peter Sorfa , who has a website at

In an earlier interview, Craig told me that a Blankets record is being recorded. In this conversation he told me it will be out in the summer.

Notes: Peter Bagge

These are my transcriptions of some of what Pete Bagge had to say when I spoke to him for my Stranger piece on Seattle comics last month. We spoke on February 17.

In general, I asked for thoughts on how healthy the local comics creator ‘scene’ is, and I specifically asked for comparisons to a decade ago and at the beginning of the nineties.

Pete is a personable fellow who has very strong, often idiosyncratic opinions. While I think these opinions may reflect a joy in contrariness, I not been able to get Pete to concur with that view. Of course.

I was in a terrible hurry to get the transcriptions done and thus, regrettably, this is neither a complete transcript, nor does it include my questions or prompting. I will summarize my input in bold and preface Pete’s quotes with PB:.

Pete tells me he moved here (to Seattle) 20 years ago. When he first moved here there was a small handful of cartoonists.

PB: I just was following my wife, you know, so typical of cartoonists, to move where their wives and girlfriends are.

How many waxings and wanings have there been in Seattle over that time?

PB: There was one great big waxing, and that started to happen around 1990. It partly had to do with – you know people were moving here cartoonists were moving here for the same reason that all kinds of people – all kinds of artists and musicians were moving here. It was still relatively cheap and it had all the amenities of a larger city, a more expensive city. It just seemed like a great place. And then the grunge phenomenon really put the town on the map and then all of a sudden it became the place for young people to be.

And also I would imagine Fantagraphics moving here around 1989, 1990, and which coincided with them pretty much becoming the preeminent alternative publisher.

Then about five years later, starting in the mid-late nineties, and on, particularly a lot of young people who moved here around that time all one by one started moving away. Of course, since they did move away, I couldn’t ask them all if they had some shared reason. There might have been some disappointment. I don’t know what it was that they were hoping for, that somebody promised them a rose garden or something, but… Because it is sort of interesting how so many people just moved away shortly afterwards. I would understand it if it’s because Seattle suddenly got way too expensive, but most of them wound up, when I think about it, in New York or Los Angeles; but there’s just also more career opportunities in those two towns too.

How aware are you of new arrivals?

PB: I barely leave the house, so I don’t go – don’t either get invited to or go to many, or any cartoonist related things. Once in a blue moon I’ll see someone like Jim Woodring and the folks at Fantagraphics but that’s pretty much it. So if there’s some folks that are brand new I’m only vaguely aware of their work at best. I rarely even go to comics shops.

It’s so maddening – when I do go to a comics shop I can’t even find the stuff that I’m looking for, that I know is out. I’ve just completely given up on them.

What’s your interest in and awareness of the big manga wave and the move to emphasize graphic novels as a publication format as publishers respond to increasing bookstore sales numbers and declining comics shop sales?

PB: As long as someone is willing to buy something that’s in the comic book format that is always going to be my first choice. I just prefer it, for whatever reason. It’s my favorite format by far, to just do a traditional comic book, whether it’s in color or black and white. I really don’t care for graphic novels as a format, and of course I’ve had my work collected in that form ad a lot of the story lines that I’ve done they work as a graphic novel when you string them all together.

But even something like Ghost World, I preferred reading it as it came out in installments, in Eightball. It’s just a more cozy format.

Can you compare the current Seattle comics scene with the Portland scene?

PB: “I couldn’t – among much younger artists, I just really couldn’t… I’m just not familiar with them.

The bulk of what makes up alternative comics these days… there’s plenty of people who are very capable, sometimes excellent draftsmen. This could just simply be a generational bias on my part, but with just a handful of exceptions, while a lot of them are quite capable artists and cartoonists, it’s just not for me. I just don’t get much out of it. The stories are way too dragged out, they’re way too ‘navel-gazy’ and they’re just full of self-importance, and it’s just not my idea of entertainment! It’s not the kind of stuff I search out.

One of the many things I liked about what fell under the umbrella of alternative comics in the eighties is that it encompassed an incredibly wide variety of styles and approaches and formats. That’s what I liked better about alternative comics than what used to be considered underground.

Undergrounds did have, with a few exceptions, except for like the better artists, you know, it’s just about hippies and fucking and smoking pot and stuff like that.

And then [in the eighties – ed.] you just wound up with everything! It was a really wide variety. Everybody was coming from a thousand different directions, and even all of my favorite cartoonists from that period, especially when you look at their earliest work – style, format, story telling – their whole approach in many ways were radically different from each other.

As the nineties wore on, this certain sensibility developed, where it was like an unspoken consensus of what constitutes a good alternative comic. And it’s always the kind of stuff that’s most likely to – whatever anybody says, what they’re hoping and praying for is a great writeup in the [New York] Times, or the New Yorker, or the Village Voice, so it’s always something that’s gonna appeal to college-educated white people who are very self-conscious about reading comics so they wanna make sure that the comic they read looks and feels like a quote-unquote smart comic.

As you can tell, my temperature’s boiling when I think about this (laughs) and it’s not because I think all of this stuff is inherently bad, you know, I always have to make that distinction. It’s not like I think that approach stinks or it’s no good. But that seems to be all there is and the few things that don’t fall under that purview either they get ignored or they get viciously attacked as pieces of shit.

[Pete’s speech sped up noticeably in the paragraph where he names the publications. I understood him to be clearly describing the senibility associated with some of the non-Fantagraphics indie publishers, and because of the media and sales success of Craig Thompsons’s ‘Blankets,’ suspected that Pete mght ave that title in mind, paritally. So a question sprung to mind.].

I recently interviewed Craig Thompson, down in Portland, and he said something that I think you might find interesting. He told me that he thinks ‘Comics are an inherently working-class medium.’ What do you think of that idea?

PB: Working class. Well, yeah, it was a mass medium, for better or worse, and um, it was just comics, first and foremost. It was just a form of entertainment. Most people didn’t think of it as art or didn’t care if was art or good art or not. They liked it first, and maybe just a handful of people would think ‘this is good art.’

So you’re concerned about an evolution away from a working-class market for the medium?

PB: Well, yeah. Definitely. For a number of reasons. One, if no-one’s taking it seriously, you can fly under the radar, and it’s much looser – you can do whatever you want. And again if someone wants to do something of great importance and it’s very serious, that would be fine, but something like that wasn’t the only thing that really counted as good, as a good comic.

To me the epitome of – it does get short shrift, and what I love, is Johnny Ryan’s comics. I think he’s a riot. And again, it’s not like I think everybody should be doing what Johnny Ryan does. In fact, I’m very glad that they don’t. But I just think he’s really great at what he does, and it’s just as good and very often better than the best of the more high-falutin’ stuff.

So yeah, it’s kind of like – in a word, it’s almost inevitable. It’s not like somebody’s doing anything wrong, or it’s this evil conspiracy. But it seems like once an art form – after it’s been around for a while, it then actually starts to die. It starts to lose its’ popular appeal. Then that’s when it starts – the two other art forms that I think of in particular that this happened to is poetry and jazz music.

As it starts to fade, in as far as it being a popular mass medium, the only people who are interested in working in it are people who love it as an art form first – and that would include myself – as opposed to people who just wanna make a quick buck, because it is no longer a way to make a quick buck. Well, for the most part it isn’t.

So then, the only people who are really keeping the medium alive are people who love the form first; they love it as an art form and that’s really for the most part that matters more than anything else. Because of that then it starts to take on – the fact that it is an art, regardless of where you’re coming from, then it takes on a very separate meaning.

But then of course the only people who at that point are noticing it are educated intellectual types. It’s like the parallels between what’s happening with comics and what happened with jazz after world war two are – it’s like, uncanny. I mean the exact same thing happened. But then, like in jazz, by the late fifties what for the most part…

So the only jazz that quote-unquote counted was music that I hate. I always hated it. And it sounds like blasphemy to put down people like Charlie Parker and Coltrane and people like that – I don’t take anything away from them that they were innovative and incredibly talented. But I fucking hate their music, and I’m not the only one because their music never sold.